Late Alumnus Awarded 2021 UM Outstanding Internship Experience Partner

Oscar Pope honored for his mentorship of Ole Miss students

Laura Antonow (left), UM director of college programs, and Ginny Chavis (right), professor of art and interim associate provost, present the 2021 University of Mississippi Outstanding Internship Experience Partner of the Year to the family of Oscar Pope. They are (from second-to-left) Renada Ragsdale and Chelsea Dees, both of Richland; Beverly Pope, Oscar’s mother, and Earnestine Mayes, both of Terry; and Shannon Lewis, of Richland. Photo by Logan Kirkland/ Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Being a part of the Ole Miss family can mean many things, but many people say it’s about the network of people who understand how special the University of Mississippi is to those who have experienced it.

Countless alumni report traveling to far-flung locales, only to hear a “Hotty Toddy” from someone who recognized their Ole Miss gear.

Oscar R. Pope Jr., a 2010 UM graduate from Terry, understood what the legacy of his time at the university meant to him and to his career. Because of the experiences Pope had at the university, he often was first in line to provide career advice and help Ole Miss students make career and internship connections.

“He is one of those students that I can count as significant in my growth as a professor and as a person due to his positive nature,” said Ginny Chavis, UM professor of art and interim associate provost. “His great big smile is part of the Ole Miss family and will be forever.”

Pope died in June. UM faculty, staff, and students gathered recently to share stories and honor his memory as he was awarded the 2021 University of Mississippi Outstanding Internship Experience Partner honor during the annual UM Internship Experience program student presentations.

Chavis went on to tell stories of Pope’s excitement to learn and how he encouraged his classmates during his time in graphic design courses she taught.

“The bond in this class was quite special, and Oscar helped bring it to life. He rallied the class with open discussions, and kept them laughing. The camaraderie lives on today.”

Pope stayed in touch with many people from the university, even years after he graduated, Chavis said

“That’s pretty special, especially to faculty members,” she said, adding that when she learned of Pope’s passing this summer, she didn’t hear about it through social media, the newspaper or an official department announcement. She heard about it first through the art community.

“I received text messages from current and former students, faculty and staff, much like I would have received news about a family member of my own,” Chavis said. “People who weren’t even in school with him knew about it. That’s the type of presence and impact he had on our community.”

Oscar R. Pope Jr. was posthumously awarded the 2021 University of Mississippi Outstanding Internship Experience Partner of the Year honor Sept. 21 during the annual Internship Experience program’s student participant presentations. Pope was a marketing coordinator for the NBA on TNT and NBA TV with Turner Sports in Atlanta and an active alumnus who served as a career mentor for Ole Miss students. Courtesy photo

After graduation, Pope moved to Atlanta to pursue his dream career in sports marketing, working his way up to a position as content marketing coordinator for the NBA on TNT and NBA TV at Turner Sports. He handled consumer-facing creative messaging and branding for both networks, as well as the website

“He was a bit of a sport fanatic,” Chavis recalled. “Even in his classes, he found a way to put a sports theme into his projects, so his career fit him perfectly.”

Pope was an advocate for and connector of Ole Miss students with fellow alumni and career resources in Atlanta. He served as a speaker and panelist for UM student career roundtables, and gave studio tours and shared his work with students participating in the UM Internship Experience program in Atlanta.

He was chosen for this year’s award to honor his memory and his always enthusiastic support of the internship experience program and UM students, said Laura Antonow, director of the UM College Programs office in the Division of Outreach and Continuing Education.

“When we expanded the internship experience program to Atlanta, literally our first stop was dinner with Oscar,” Antonow said.

“Without missing a beat, he became one of the program’s biggest supporters, generously sharing his time and talent with interns, giving tours of Turner Sports to wide-eyed Ole Miss students, and connecting our team and students with professionals in Atlanta.

“Even during the pandemic, he held a video conference with UM interns to talk about his impressive career path, shared tips on life in a big city, and offered encouragement to students who were still not sure how to navigate a crazy year.”

Pope’s efforts made a difference in the lives of students, staff and faculty, she said.

A double major at UM, Pope graduated with degrees in both art and journalism and made just as big an impact in the School of Journalism and New Media as he did in the Department of Art.

As a student, he served as a production manager for Rebel Radio, a news anchor for NewsWatch and a visual editor for The Daily Mississippian.

“If you were involved in the broadcast program at our school, you knew Oscar,” said Deb Wenger, interim dean of the journalism school. “He was the smiling face that made spending long hours at the Student Media Center just a bit more fun for everyone, and after he graduated, we stayed in contact.

“When I reached out to him to see if he could help a student make some connections, the response was an immediate, ‘Yes!’ Oscar always made time to give others a leg up. He genuinely cared about helping others succeed.”